Are you human beings? Order and knowledge construction through questioning in primary classroom interaction

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  • Linguistics and Education 17 (2006) 313346

    Are you human beings? Order and knowledgeconstruction through questioning in primary

    classroom interactionPiera Margutti

    University for Foreigners Perugia, Department of Language Sciences, Italy


    This article examines how question-answer sequences are constructed in primary school instructionalactivities. The interaction between teacher and students in two 3rd-year groups is analyzed using aconversation-analytic approach. Four questioning patterns yes-no, alternative, wh-questions, and a non-interrogative format very frequently used in this setting which I call the Eliciting Completion Device (ECD) teachers use to address the class as a whole are examined in relation to their sequential uptakes: in-unisonanswers and bids to answer. The analysis shows that students recognize the conventions of question construc-tion as methodical practices used by teachers to convey expectations as to whether the answer is accessibleto students. Choral responses are produced when the question is constructed as eliciting information whichis obviously known to students, while bids to answer are deployed when the answer is less transparent. Thefindings reveal that the practices used to construct collectively assembled knowledge are closely connectedto the organization of the classroom social order. 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

    Keywords: Questions; Classroom interaction; Instructional sequences; Preference; Audience participation

    1. Introduction

    Imparting knowledge to a new generation of learners in an institutional setting is primarily aninteractional activity, though the way in which participants construct and manage interaction is amatter not to be taken for granted. As studies on cultural variations in teaching and ethnographicresearch on educational practices have shown, in many societies instructional activities are imple-mented through different ways of organizing interaction (Cazden, 1986; Heath, 1983; Mercer,

    Correspondence address: Universita` per Stranieri di Perugia, Piazza Fortebraccio, 4. I-06122 Perugia, Italy.Tel.: +39 051 605613.

    E-mail address:

    0898-5898/$ see front matter 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.linged.2006.12.002

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    1995; Ochs, 1982; Ochs & Schieffelin, 1983; Philips, 1972, 1983; Rogoff, 1990; Schultz, Florio,& Erickson, 1982). For instance, in many communities adults guide the construction of knowl-edge primarily through providing opportunities for observation and imitation of instructors/elders,while in other cultures, as in our Western societies, talking to pupils, and furthermore askingquestions, seem to be the main instructional practices employed in institutional education settings.

    It goes without saying that classroom interaction involves a number of activities through whichteaching and learning tasks can be accomplished without asking questions, and some require notalking at all. For instance, teachers and students tell stories to each other, read poetry, stories ortales, solve problems, and write essays. All of these pedagogic endeavors involve, at a certainstage, particular oral activities: the statement of ideas and concepts, the organization of knowledge,the development of abilities and competences. Questions and answers are the most prevalentinstructional tools in a long standing pedagogic tradition in which the centrality of questionsin teaching is widely recognized (Cazden, 1986; French & MacLure, 1981; Galton, Hargreaves,Comber, Wall, & Pell, 1999; Levinson, 1992; McHoul, 1978; Mehan, 1979; Mercer, 1995; Nassaji& Wells, 2000; Nystrand, Wu, Gamoran, Zeiser, & Long, 2003; Sinclair & Coulthard, 1975;Wilkinson, 1982) and which is claimed, by some, to have come down all the way from Socrates.

    One of the main institutional aims that teachers and students achieve through interaction isthat of imparting and gaining new knowledge. This often involves, as a first step, a collectiveassembling of known information. Indeed, teachers use a range of questioning devices to elicitfrom students notions they already possess: that is, they prompt displays of knowledge. Thesenotions then serve as the foundation upon which new information and competences are built. Forthis purpose, teachers have a wide range of interactional resources and practices at their disposal.For example, by leaving the last word in a sentence to be completed by the students, a teacherclearly relies on previous knowledge possessed by the students and invites their collaborativecompletion, as shown in fragment 1 below:

    By withholding the production of the last word, highlighted also by a substantial period ofsilence in line 3, the teacher invites the students to display their knowledge of the unspoken itemby supplying it in the empty slot.

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    Teachers draw on a variety of resources in designing questioning. Their goal in each case is toelicit a certain type of answer, given by students in a certain manner and located in a particularplace in the interaction. In the excerpt above, for example, before the withholding of the turns lastitem and the one-second gap in line 3, the teacher produces a cluster of prosodic features, includingrising intonation, emphasis, and pitch variations. In this way, the teacher provides students withthe opportunity to understand what is left unspoken and thus, to display their knowledge anddemonstrate that they are so attuned to the talk underway that they can complete the teachersunfinished turn. This practice, which I analyze in this paper and call the Eliciting CompletionDevice (ECD), is only one of the methods employed by teachers when designing questioningturns.1

    Classrooms are multi-party settings. Teachers face a large audience and must be capable ofcontrolling and organizing students participation so that pedagogical activities are accessibleto all. Therefore, the construction of shared knowledge interlocks with the organization of theclassroom social order (McHoul, 1978; Mehan, 1979). Through patterns of questioning the teachercontrols the students verbal and non-verbal participation, determining who speaks, when andhow. At times the teacher aims to elicit a collective response from the whole class, while onother occasions the question is constructed to address only one particular student. In other words,the way in which a question gets shaped has important consequences for the social order of theclassroom, in terms of how the teacher keeps the students focused on the activities and controlsthe order and format of speaking turns. Thus, it emerges that the activity of building knowledgehas indissoluble ties with that of keeping and maintaining order in the classroom.

    The focus in this article is on questions that are not addressed to a single student (pre-allocated).The main interest is on how differences in the construction of this type of questions relate to theformat of the answers: either choral and individual responses. Through the investigation of theways in which teachers construct questioning turns and the shape of their sequential uptakes, thispaper aims to explicate the relationship between the construction of shared knowledge and themaintenance of the social order in the classroom. Before exploring the details of these questioningformats and their outcomes, some preliminary considerations on the categorization of addressedand non-addressed questions are necessary.

    1.1. Addressed and non-addressed questions and their outcomes

    One immediately visible feature of the construction of questions, which has consequencesfor the way in which teacher/student interaction is organized, is the presence or absence in thequestioning turn of addressing terms. Naming one student when constructing a question is oneway to deal with the problem of selecting who shall answer, as in fragment 2 below:

    1 A similar practice has been described in Koshik (2002). According to Koshik, teachers use Designedly Incom-plete Utterances (DIU) in 1-on-1, second-language writing conferences to elicit knowledge displays in error correctionsequences. These are described as incomplete turn constructional units which prompts the students to complete the turnand, thus, to self-correct. The practice is very similar to what I call here Eliciting Completion Device (ECD). However,considering the different setting (multiparty) in which the practice is used, the distinctive features in terms of turn designand prosody, and the types of action it is being used to do in primary school interaction, I have decided to describe it as adifferent, although undoubtedly related, practice. One example of this practice has been described also in Lerner (1995:11617).

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    The student named in line 1 answers directly in line 3. The teacher then assesses the answerin the following line.

    However, things are not always so neat and clear. For instance, the question in line 3 in thefragment below, although clearly addressed to Janin, produces a choral uptake.

    As shown in the transcript, here the selected student does not answer immediately. Possiblereasons for the delay can be the following: (i) Janin is busy writing when the teacher addresses thequestion to her; (ii) the question follows a session of talk in which students have been allowed togive their individual answers without any selection procedure or pre-allocation; and Janin mightbe still orienting to this type of organization. This delay, however, provides opportunities for the

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    other pupils to supply the answer before Janin finally comes in (line 8). The example shows a casein which the question is addressed to a single student, but that is not how it is answered, owing tothe local management of the activities underway.

    By contrast, the question in Fragment 4 below is left un-addressed. The teacher does notname any student in particular, and the nonverbal behavior which accompanies the delivery of thequestioning (see the gloss to lines 1 and 5) also seems to suggest that all the students are proposedhere as potential addressees of the question. Despite this, individual students present themselvesas potential answerers.2

    Here the audience organizes the answering sequence following a precise procedure. Beforea specific student is selected and gives the answer (line 8), a number of students produce eitherverbal or gestural bids to answer (indicated by the graphic symbol ), initiating an insertedsequence in which the teacher is expected to make a selection, which is accomplished inline 7.

    However, answers to questions that are non-addressed are not always preceded by bids. Forinstance, the question in the fragment below engenders a different organization in the production

    2 The lines in which students propose themselves as potential next speakers are indicated in the transcript with thissymbol (), in lines 3, 4, and 6.

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    of answers: students provide choral answers after a single respondent anticipates the others inline 2.

    In fragment 6 below, the answer is again produced right away and in unison, following anon-addressed question.

    In both fragments the answer is provided without any selection procedure. In both fragments,but more neatly in fragment 6, the students organize themselves in responding groups whichperfectly time their production, giving choral answers.

    As the examples above clearly show, the characterization of addressed and non-addressedquestions is rather broad and glosses over some crucial features in the question construction andin the interactional context (such as, for instance, the delay of the selected student in producingthe answer, as we have seen in example 3) and perhaps oversimplifies sequential consequencessuch as who is expected or entitled to answer and in which way this is to be done. Apparently,as emerges from the above examples, there is no direct relationship between addressed questionand individually produced answer nor between non-addressed question and collectively producedanswer. Furthermore, as fragments 4, 5 and 6 show, non-addressed questions seem to engender twomain types of answering patterns: choral answers and bids to answer (either verbal or non-verbal,such as hand-raising).

    The fact that two different outcomes are possible after non-addressed questions is significant interms of the orderly progression of interaction. Students seem to recognize indications which lie inthe features of question construction, and which do not always coincide with the teachers explicitnaming of the selected student, when interpreting the specific requirements of the question. Itseems, in fact, that the rules participants follow in order to manage the unfolding of interactionin classroom instructional sequences, and particularly those which students adhere to in order toproduce the expected answer, are conveyed by the very construction of the question.

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    The analysis that follows focuses on questions which are not addressed to a specific student,and which yield either choral answers or individual bids to answer. From the way in which non-addressed questions are designed, students interpret whether individual or collective answers areexpected.

    In particular, with reference to choral answers, we will find that the prior questioning turnswhich elicit them embody a sense of obviousness that ends up being conveyed in the answer aswell. Teachers use a variety of prosodic and syntactic formats and, more generally, features in theconstruction and deployment of questions (1) to display their assumptions as to whether or notthe students should know the correct answer and (2) to instruct them as to how and where themissing information should be identified and reconstructed in prior talk. Teachers seem to trustand rely on the students ability to recognize these conventions of question construction whichwill guide them towards the correct answer and its expected format.

    Therefore, when looking at the two formats which the answers may take, a distinction canbe made between levels of recognizability the teacher accords to the expected answer. Somequestion formats instruct students precisely on the content of the answer which is embedded inthe talk and there for them to perceive, thus conveying a sense of obviousness in the question.Other formats, by contrast, characterize questions which have far less transparent answers and,thus, involve more perspicacious respondents. Questions of the first set seem more frequently toengender choral answers, while the other formats produce bids to answer.

    The idea that a certain level of obviousness is intrinsic to some definite features of the design ofquestions is related to the in-unison aspect. The presence of in-unison responses suggests that theanswerers judge them to be logically projectable from that which comes before. The implicationis that this recognition occurs for all members of the audience, and at the same time, causingthem to act together as a whole body. This article will explore the ways in which this sense of theobvious is constructed and understood by the participants, and it will show how this process iscrucial for an orderly progression of the interaction.

    2. Data and method

    The article illustrates part of the results of a larger study which was conducted in a primaryschool in a major industrial city in the north of Italy. The school actually serves one of the areaslocated immediately outside the city centre. Most of the community is composed of workingand middle class inhabitants with a growing population of recent immigrant families who comeprimarily from China and northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia).

    The school provides a full-time teaching programme to pupils from the age of 6 to 11. Studentsare present in the classroom for eight hours a day. Each year group is taught by two teachers whoare present in alternation. In this school, as in the majority of primary schools in Italy, children reg-ularly spend most of the school day in the same room, where almost all the subjects are taught. Stu-dents only leave the room for foreign language lessons, physical education, meals and extra activi-ties. The data in this corpus includes only those activities that are carried out inside the classroom.

    For the study I examined two third-year groups (ages 78) with around 50 pupils and theirfour teachers. The teachers who participated in this study adopt traditional teacher-led methodsof instruction and forms of classroom management. Most of the time, and particularly during thepreliminary phase of the lesson, the teacher faces the children, who are seated in parallel rows,and addresses the whole class. For these reasons I used two cameras in each classroom, so asto capture the participants conduct as much as possible, from each partys point of view. Thecameras were placed and switched on before the beginning of the morning lessons and kept going

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    the entire time (8 h a day). I was never present during the recording; both students and teacherssaw me infrequently when I manipulated the cameras before or after the lessons. The recordingslasted one week for each of the two groups.

    For the purpose of this specific study, the analysis will focus on excerpts from ten lessons. Theexamples examined belong to the phase in which the teacher presents the topic of the lesson, amoment in which the interaction is always teacher-led. In these sessions of talk, key notions arepresented, ideas relating to the main topics of the lesson are discussed, and specific procedures arepracticed for the solutions of problems or other pedagogic tasks. The core instructional sequenceshave been transcribed according to the conventions developed by Gail Jefferson (Atkinson &Heritage, 1984: ixxvi).3

    The analytical approach is that of conversation analysis, which seeks to describe the methodicalpractices that people use in their social activities. Drawing from the work of ethno-methodologists,the method aims at discovering the ways in which members in a social setting make sense oftheir affairs as intelligible and accountable (Garfinkel, 1967: 3334), with the accountabilitybeing grounded on the orderliness of the verbal and non-verbal practices of speakers. Thus, likeany speaker who interprets the conduct of a co-participant in any ordinary conversation, andwho considers social behavior to be an organized activity with recurrent and systematic features(Heritage, 1984: 241), teachers and students produce their conduct and interpret that of otherson the basis of their sense of what instructing and being instructed in a formal setting is like.The primary place where speakers display how they view other members behavior as orderlyand accountable is the subsequent action (Heritage, 1984: 245). Analyzing the details of theconstruction of answers makes visible the respondents interpretation of the question and themotives of the questioner. Thus, conversation analysis can be described as the adoption of asequential approach to the investigation of interaction. Indeed, several studies in the tradition ofconversation analysis have been conducted on question-answer sequences in other institutionalsettings such as medical interactions (Frankel, 1984), courtrooms (Atkinson & Drew, 1979; Drew,1992), and news interviews (Clayman & Heritage, 2002; Heritage & Roth, 1995), as well asclassroom interaction (Drew, 1981; McHoul, 1978, 1990; Mehan, 1979).

    In the light of these considerations, the approach adopted here focuses on questions and answerswhich are produced in classroom interaction as a linked pair of actions, investigating the relation-ship between question design and interactional uptake. Through the examination of the details ofverbal and non-verbal conduct of teachers and students in questioning and answering, the analysisaims to discover what conventions in the construction of questions are recurrently produced bythe teachers and understood by students as engendering one or the other format which answersmay take.

    3. The distribution of question types and answering uptakes

    Investigation of the larger corpus of instructional sequences reveals that interrogative syntaxis not the only resource used by teachers to ask questions. In 42.3% of the cases in a sample ofthe whole corpus, turn transfers between the teacher and the students are accomplished withoutimplementing any syntactic structure codable as interrogative.4 For instance, sometimes teachers

    3 A description of the transcript conventions being used in here is available in Appendix A.4 These results, including the calculations which are reported in Table 1 below, are from the unpublished doctoral

    dissertation by the same author: Piera Margutti (2004) Classroom Interaction in an Italian Primary School: InstructionalSequences in Pedagogic Settings. York: University of York (UK).

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    use declarative-formatted turns to accomplish the pragmatic force of interrogatives,5 as evidencedby the typical answer format (line 4) and the bid (line 3) that follow the teachers statement (line1) in the fragment below:6

    The practice of producing an incomplete turn (Fragment 1) is another non-interrogative typeof questioning constructed mainly through the use of prosodic features.

    The table below reports the figures based on the sample of data that includes four fairly extendedinstructional sequences and 156 instances of teachers questioning turns and relative turn transfersto students.

    As the table shows, the most frequent type is the open question (36.5%), followed by instancesof incomplete utterances as in the ECD (25%), yes-no questions (15.4%) and alternative ques-tions (5.7%). From the investigation of the answers to non-addressed questioning turns thatbelong to the four categories above, it emerges that choral answers tend to be produced morefrequently after instances in which the questioning is accomplished through the ECD, yes/noand alternative interrogatives. Quite differently, the largest group of questions, represented bythe wh-interrogative type, can engender both alternative responses: choral answers and bids toanswer, with a predominance for the latter format.

    This distribution of the two answer types shows that beyond syntax, there are other componentsof different questioning formats that cue students understandings of how they are to answer. Inthe analysis that follows, I consider component units of the questioning turn, the placement ofinterrogatives within these turn constructional units, the placement of questioning turns insidethe larger sequence as well as prosodic features and non-verbal aspects in the delivery of talk. Ifocus first on instances of the ECD, yes/no and alternative questions, followed by an analysis ofwh-interrogatives.

    5 In their investigation of turn transition points in news interviews, Heritage and Roth (1995) have found that, althoughinterrogatives cover a large amount of the interviewers questioning turns, on a sensible number of cases questioningis accomplished through other formats which are not grammatically codable as interrogatives, but which neverthelessaccomplish the pragmatic force of questioning. These are, for instance, increments, third-party attributed statements, non-attributed statements and aspects of time and speaker management. The data from classroom instructional sequences seemto yields similar results. Grammar and the interrogative formats constitute an important resource for coding questioning,but there are other utterance types that can accomplish questioning. These are, for instance, declaratives, if-formattedsentences, directives, subsentential units as appendor questions, the Eliciting Completion Device and other practices ofspeaker management, such as address terms to indicate that a previously formulated question is thus addressed to a specificstudent.

    6 The example shows that the teachers turn in line 1, although formatted as a statement, is understood by the studentas projecting a question. It is worth knowing that the Italian adjective piccola (small) takes here the feminine gender,and it is thus attributed to citta` (town) which is feminine in Italian, while paese (village) is masculine. Thus, it is clearthat the answer is wrong.

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    Table 1

    Interrogative syntactic formatsYes/no questions 15.4%Alternative (or) questions 5.7%Open (wh) questions 36.5%

    Non-interrogative formatsRear-loaded wh-questions 3%Incomplete utterances (Eliciting Completion Device) 25%Sub-sentential units (appendor questions) 0.3%If-formatted utterances 2.5%Statements 2.5%Directives, nominating & other speaker management devices 9%

    The quantification of questioning formats of teachers turns of the sample, as illustrated inTable 1, is included here to show that questioning in classroom instructional sequences is onlypartially describable by means of commonly established grammar categories and that other typesof linguistic organization are needed and, indeed, normally used by speakers to embody thisconduct.7 It should be made clear, therefore, that the central focus of this investigation is to providea description of the questioning practices, as they are produced and understood by participants,following an inductive procedure of analysis. Thus, the examples described in this study havebeen selected as the most illustrative of a wide range of cases that includes both clear examplesand marginal or peripheral cases, so as to display the systematic practices used by the speakersto enact their courses of action.

    4. The Eliciting Completion Device: making projectable the missing item

    Table 1 shows that the ECD is one of the most frequent practices that teachers use to accomplishquestioning without employing a specific interrogative format. In fragment 1, we noted that thispractice is implemented through the use of a cluster of prosodic features which are deployedin the vicinity of the withholding of the utterances last component, as indicated in the gap ofsilence which follows the incomplete turn. The following extracts (815) show how this practiceis recurrently produced. In approaching the last item of a turn, the teacher uses prosodic featuressuch as intonation, sound stretching, and pitch contour to instruct students on the format andcontent of the item that will be missing. The device consists in an intense use of prosody inapproaching the pause so as (i) to highlight that the topical focus is forthcoming, and (ii) to showhow the flow of talk can be analyzed as being made of a series of components (words, syllables,sounds, etc.) of the same type which is expected the students would provide as completion. Withreference to this latter point, the teacher explicitly refers to the compositional pattern of the talk,thus providing a method for analysing it into its component parts, in addition to supplying arecognizable place for the students to provide the completion (Lerner, 1991). So, for instance,in fragment 8, by repeatedly using a significant rise of intonation in the last two words (line 3)before the pause in line 4, the teacher signals to students that a completion is expected and that

    7 Despite a controversial relationship between quantification and the investigation of conversation, statistics has beenvariously used in some of the most recent CA works, as illustrated in Heritage (1995: 404406), with relation to specificand well defined features of talk.

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    the missing item is the word which would complete the utterance:

    In the fragment below, the stretching of the vowel sounds and the emphasis which is producedin the first two syllables of the Italian three-syllable word (ve-ner-d`) for Friday alerts thestudents that the third and last syllable would be missing and left for them to be produced, whichthey indeed do in line 3:

    In fragment 10, through the emphatic production of the preposition di and the micropausewhich separates the preposition from the noun, the teacher conveys that a relevant point will bemade. This is followed by the production of the first syllable of the Italian word lavoro forwork, which the students then complete in lines 3 and 4:8

    In fragment 11, in each of the arrowed lines, the teacher uses again these prosodic devices tosection the flow of talk into its components so as to alert the students on the type of item that they

    8 The Italian word for work is composed of three syllables: la-vo-ro.

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    would have to provide in order to complete the utterance. By stopping for the time of a micropauseafter the verb to be (line 1)which is also delivered with emphasis, the teacher is projecting aforthcoming relevant point in talk. Similarly to example 8, the use of a rising contour partitionsthe flow of talk into its components, alerting the students to the fact that they should completethe utterance with the last item. In line 1 the item requested is the word rotation. But, in line3, the teacher produces a further partition of the word rotation into its syllable-components bystretching the vowel sounds of each syllable, which is also delivered with emphasis. In this waythe students are instructed on the format of the item which is missing and which they provide inline 4.

    The case of example 11 and, in particular, the occurrence of the answer produced by onestudent (line 2), before the choral answer in line 4 (other similar cases are in line 3, fragment 10and 14), needs some further specification with regards to our claim that the ECD is frequentlyfollowed by choral answers. As a matter of fact, the answer given by the single student in line2 could be viewed as contradicting our point. However, if we do not confine our analysis to line2 and go on to consider also the teachers following turn and the progress of the sequence, wesee that the students answer is treated by the teacher as a departure from the general pattern,which displays her orientation to the ECD as normatively implying an answer in chorus. Thus,we can notice that in line 3, the teachers turn overlaps the prior individual answer by startingat the third beat of the projected word. As illustrated also in the prior example (10), when theproduction by a single student reaches the third syllable, the word is likely to be recognized bythe majority of the other students, who thus furnish completion (line 4). With the word rotation(example 11), however, the students seem to hesitate to recognize the exact word or to understandthat a choral answer is expected at this point. The latter, at least, appears to be the case here. Theteachers turn in line 3, in fact, does not add anything more to the prior students production; onthe contrary, it leaves out the third syllable, which the student has previously produced in line 2.Another indication that the teacher is oriented to a choral production the fact that she providesthe third-turn positive evaluation of the answer only after the choral answer (line 5) and not afterline 2, although the syllables produced clearly indicate that the student was hinting at the correctcompletion.

    The ECD is rather frequently associated with other types of interrogatives and may function todraw the students attention to the upcoming topical focus of the following question, as in fragment12 below. The questioning turn has the shape of an alternative question which is also preceded bya wh-question (b-arrow). It appears that, in the course of delivering the word temperature theteacher realizes that there is a further opportunity to elicit the students participation. The wordtemperature is thus produced in the manner of the ECD (a-arrow).

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    The students complete the utterance in perfect unison in line 3, after a micro-pause. This deviceserves as an invitation to the students to demonstrate that they are so attuned to the talk underwaythat the teacher can withhold any part of her talk and elicit completion from them.

    It is clear that in cases like fragments 9 (line 1), 11 (line 3), and 12 (line 1), where the itemto be completed is a multi-syllable word and only its final syllables are left unspoken, the wordis already clearly recognizable when it gets interrupted (as in Friday). Furthermore, in (9) thesyllable-by-syllable delivery of the part of the word which is spoken provides the recipients witha clearer model for analyzing the flow of talk into its phonological components and thus to projectthose which are left unspoken.9 Projecting the final part of a multi-syllable word is a much easier

    9 As demonstrated by Lerner (1991), speakers use a number of resources to project the compound construction of theturn underway, so as to provide recipients with an opportunity to collaboratively complete the utterance. As illustrated inthe fragment below, one of such practices involves using phonological features of a prior utterance; here the number ofthe syllables in the spelling of the names in conversation:

    (12) [CDHQ:II]01 Mrs.R: His name is Joe,02 Josh: Mm hm?03 Mrs.R: Vandiver.04 Josh: Vandiver?05 Mrs.R: V-a-n,//d-06 Josh: d-iv-e-r.07 Mrs.R: d-i-v-e-r. Uh huh. (Lerner, 1991: 450).Similarly, in fragments 9, 11 and 12, the ECD instructs the students to analyze the item into its component parts. Thismakes the students project the missing syllables, inviting for completion.

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    task than projecting larger units which are more difficult to reconstruct from the informationprovided in the preceding turn constructional unit.

    Fragments 1 and 11 (line 1) demonstrate, however, that the ECD might also involve largerunits than just a few syllables. In some instances, the item which is designed as missing can be anentire word, a phrase, a clause, or a sentence. But, when teachers withhold these larger units, theECD is deployed in precise sequential positions with reference to prior talk: the teacher elicitsthe completion only when the item has been already provided in recent prior talk.

    Fragment 13 below illustrates a larger sequence which includes, as its final part, the repro-duction of fragment 11 (lines 812). This sequence demonstrates how the teacher progressivelysupplies more and more of the desired answer, leading up to the collective recognition of theexpected completion.

    The arrowed lines indicate instances in which the teacher produces the ECD. Each time, withthe exception of the last one (line 10), the missing item is not easily projectable from whatimmediately precedes it in the incomplete turn. In line 2 the word direction is missing, whilein line 6 the teacher apparently elicits an entire sentence, which is indeed produced later by thesame teacher in line 8. Finally, the turn in line 8 is left incomplete because the word rotation isleft unspoken.

    In fact, the request to provide such less projectable units is often produced so as to make thestudents use repetition or a quotation from prior talk. For example, both words (direction androtation) and the sentence (it is originated by a rotation), which are all missing in fragment

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    13, have been produced earlier on, quite recently. In the following transcript, prior occurrencesof the missing items are indicated by the letters in the margin. This sequence actually precededthe talk in 13.

    In lines 4 and 9 the word direction is used in the same syntactic context (it has changeddirection) in which the word is elicited later in fragment 13 (line 2). Then, in lines 5, 6, and 9above, the teacher produces the word rotation and the verb to rotate several times along withthe explanation. Hence, it is clear that the later requests to provide the two words in fragment 13(lines 2 and 8), as well as the sentence withholding (line 6), all build upon the earlier occurrencesof these same items in prior talk, as shown here in fragment 14.

    This is made possible by means of two main practices: (1) When the teacher withholds part ofone word, the syllable-by-syllable enunciation projects the missing item as a turn-constructionalunit-in-progress (Lerner, 1991), which is interrupted only when the word is made recognizableto recipients. (2) When withholding larger and less projectable units (an entire word, phrases,clauses, sentences), the teacher deploys the unfinished turn after some prior occurrences of themissing item. In this way students are instructed that, in order to complete the turn, a recyclingof information from prior talk is requested.

    We can conclude this section by observing that inviting completion through ECD is a preciseinstructional technique that enables students to analyze the talk underway so as to recognizeexactly what is missing, as well as where and how it can be found in the talk that is left unspoken.

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    In this way, finishing the teachers turn is built as a highly predictable and, consequently, obvioustask. This transparency is evidenced by the choral production. It is also clear that, through theeliciting of precise types of responses, teacher and students collaboratively assemble pieces ofknowledge on which talk further progresses. In this way, a precise instructional aim is achievedvia interactional practices.

    5. The alternative interrogative type: choosing the right option

    The use of alternative interrogatives to instruct students as to the correct answer dependson other resources and is obviously grounded in the two-part structure, typical of this format, inwhich both possible alternative answers are explicitly expressed. Fragment 15 is one such case.The grammatical format of the question is constructed so as to contain the explicit formulationof the two possible answers: does the temperature rise or does it fall?

    The three excerpts below are further examples of this structure:

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    As the transcripts make immediately evident the questions have a regular pattern insofar asthe candidate answer occupies the final position. This is apparently related to the students choralrepetitions of the second alternative, which is the expected answer.

    The instructional force of this interrogative pattern, the projection of the second componentand the consequent instruction to recipients as to the answer, is well evidenced in the fragmentbelow. Before the teacher actually formulates the second alternative option (line 4), drawing fromthe lexical and prosodic properties of the first part of the question, some students are able to projectexactly what will come next and offer the answer right away, without waiting for the teacher tofinish the turn.

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    The use of the quantifier (uno/one) in association with the intensifier (solo/only) createsthe expectation of a forthcoming contrasting formulation, which is indeed readily anticipated inlines 5 to 8 by some students.

    However, not all questions of this type follow the pattern of placing the correct answer in thesecond position, as we see in extract 20, which also generates a correct, choral response.

    As discussed in Heritage (1984: 248251), the consideration of deviant cases and of thedetailed way in which these are differently implemented provides stronger evidence that speak-ers orient to the requirement of the phenomenon as normative. With respect to extract 20, wefind that the reverse order is associated with some prosodic features produced by the teacherwhen approaching the second part of the interrogative. A micropause and a cutoff follow thefirst part; furthermore, the conjunction or, which links the two misplaced parts, is also prosod-ically marked by sound stretching. These features suggest that the teacher might be catchingthe reversed construction of the utterance before it reaches completion and, thus, possibly sup-pressing an incipient self-repairing (Schegloff, Jefferson, & Sacks, 1977). Although the casefor a self-repair here can be rather speculative, owing to the fact that it isnt actually accom-plished, these disfluencies act as resources which convey the teachers negative stance towardsthe actual progression of the question design and, consequently, mark the second component asincorrect.

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    In conclusion, we can argue that in alternative interrogatives, in order to make the studentsarrive at an understanding of the correct answer, teachers and students employ and interpret thepotentialities that the grammatical format offers as well as its possible constructional variations.In addition, teachers employ prosodic features of turn delivery to clarify their stance toward thequestion and its preferred answer. Through these devices syntactical and prosodic the teacherinstructs the students as to the content of the expected answer.

    6. Yes-no questions and their preferred answers

    The format of yes-no interrogatives, like that of alternative questions, also reduces the possibleresponses to a choice between two possibilities, in this case yes or no. As Pomerantz (1988)argues, yes-no questions can be heard as incorporating the candidate answer in so far as thequestioner provides the recipient with just the information that is relevant to the immediateconcern (Pomerantz, 1988: 368). In ordinary conversation, yes-no questions are biased towardsa positive or negative answer according to the interactional relevancies of the actions that areimplemented through the question-answer sequence (Raymond, 2000; Schegloff, 1984, 1995).

    In the classroom context, interrogatives are used to elicit new/retrieve known information fromstudents, along with other institutionally specific actions, such as to repair/correct inappropriate orwrong answers (Macbeth, 2004; McHoul, 1990). Insofar as questioning in the class is designed toelicit a precise answer/piece of information, the activities implemented through question-answersequences in this setting can be viewed as having some similarities with the courtroom casedescribed in Pomerantz (1988).10 In both settings it is important for the questioner to instruct therespondent on the expected answer.

    The discussion which follows demonstrates that teachers design their questioning so as toprovide the students with very clear indications as to whether the question is designed to projecta no or a yes. In the fragments below, examples of yes-no questions are produced as theyrecurrently occur in my corpus, along with their answers. I have grouped some of the mostrepresentative instances in two sub-sets: yes-answer and no-answer questions.

    To begin with, we will look at the yes-answer questions. Fragment 21 contains an interrogativedelivery structure and some of the features of turn design that occur repeatedly throughout thissection.

    10 Pomerantz examines the production of questions as they are deployed in the construction of a videotaped testimonyfor a trial. The attorney formulates yes-no questions as part of a precise strategy geared towards instructing the suspect onthe correct answer. As Pomerantz explains, in order to use the videotape as evidence in the trial, it must be clear that thesuspect was not coerced into making a statement. Therefore, the attorney aims at obtaining precise answers and spendsthe first part of the dialogue asking questions that are specifically designed to establish that the suspect has chosen tospeak: Had the attorney asked the suspect to report on how the police had treated him, for example How have the policetreated you?, the suspect would have been in a position of determining what a satisfactory answer might be. At the veryleast, he would have needed to determine what sort of assessment to give and whether or not to detail their treatment ofhim. By incorporating a Candidate Answer, treated all right, the attorney instructed the suspect on what type of answerwould satisfy their purpose: a confirmation of treated all right or a replacement for it (Pomerantz, 1988: 367).

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    Three elements stand out. First of all, the questioning turn is prefaced by an introductory marker(line 1), which also works as a disjunctive element with reference to prior talk, proposing thata distinct sequence is thus being initiated. Furthermore, the questioning turn is a neat standing-alone interrogative unit (line 3) and, third, it makes relevant a choral afrmative response as theexpected answer (line 4).

    These features are observable in other excerpts of this type. The second fragment is from alesson on mathematics. The class has to solve a problem of division. With the question in line1, the teacher is checking whether the students have understood which information is given andwhich is not. The number of containers, to which the teacher refers in line 1, is provided in theproblem, which has just been read aloud. The questioning turn is composed of a single sententialunit and is deployed as one distinct question within a series of others, which are produced to checkwhether the students have understood the problem. The question, again, is positively answered:

    In the following excerpt the yes-no question again receives a positive answer. The questionis introduced by a question preface (according to you) that typically introduces a query andwhich, thus, initiates a rst action. The questioning turn consists of a single utterance, and it isanswered in unison. One student produces an anticipated answer in line 2, a second responds inoverlap with the end of the teachers turn (line 4), and finally the whole group answers in unisonin line 5.

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    The examples show that there are precise features in the construction of yes-no questions thatseem to yield choral yes-answers. These features become even more evident when compared withthe fragments belonging to the second sub-set, in which students provide the opposite answer, butagain with a choral delivery.

    Excerpt 24 is from a lesson on mathematics on the properties of addition and subtraction. Priorto the exchange below, the teacher has formulated a question about the table of addition, which hasreceived an in-unison positive answer. The table mentioned in the question is a poster illustratingthe properties of the two mathematical operations, which hangs on the wall. In the extract belowthe teacher then passes to examine the table of subtraction. And, indeed, the question yields choralnegative answers:

    The design of the question turn in this fragment is clearly different from the design of that inthe preceding fragments, yielding choral yes-answer.

    First, while yes-answer questions are normally single units, the question in fragment 24 isa multi-unit turn. Three different formats are packaged to construct the questioning turn: (i) asub-sentential unit which could be complete after subtraction, but which is not hearable assuch, owing to the suspended intonation; (ii) a wh-interrogative (what do we have) which isproduced with a falling intonation; and (iii) a yes-no question (are all the slots full). Second,the whole three-unit questioning turn is deployed to be heard as another question in a series, asindicated by the conjunction and; thus not as initiating a new sequence. As demonstrated by

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    Heritage and Sorjonen (1994), and-prefaced questions convey the sense that a course of actionis achieved through a series of question-answer pairs whose coherence is determined by the goalof the activity that is thus undertaken (ibid.: p. 4). Fragment 25 illustrates the question-answersequence on addition, which preceded the sequence dedicated to subtraction in extract 24:

    It is now clear that the conjunction and which precedes the questioning turn in fragment 24(line 1) is constructed by analogy with the question in line 1 (and with the table of subtraction?)in the sequence that precedes it (fragment 25); thus presumably implying a question like thefollowing: and with the table of subtraction can we also fill all the slots as we did with the tableof addition?

    By comparing the format of the no-answer questioning format in excerpt 24 with that of theyes-answer questions in 25, it emerges that while the former is hearable as drawing upon priortalk, in the case of yes-answer questions (fragments 21, 22, 23, and 25) the reverse is true. Thatis, these are usually deployed as single pieces of independent truth.

    Another characteristic of the no-answer question (fragment 24) is the teachers use of a quan-tier when asking whether all the slots can be filled. In this regard it is useful to recall Labovs(1984) hypothesis on the way in which quantifiers (such as none all, always and the like) workas intensiers in creating a cognitive contradiction that is implicit in the propositional content ofthe utterance.11 In particular, here, the quantifier seems to convey the teachers skepticism towardsthe propositional content of the talk. In general, the teachers use of these elements in the con-struction of yes-no interrogatives conveys a negative stance towards the content of the question,thus instructing recipients that a negation is preferred. In other words, through this marked format,the teacher indicates that the candidate answer, which is incorporated within the questioning turnand explicitly formulated, is designed to be heard as wrong and, thus, to be negated.

    11 In his study on the interpretation of universal quantifiers as they are used by five English speakers, Labov discussesthe use of quantifiers in the following examples from a 20-min telephone call from the Ripley interview. The examples arefrom a telephone call the informant, Dolly Ripley, had during the interview, which was part of the Lower East Side studyof New York City (Labov, 1966). The call was recorded although it wasnt part of the interview because the informantwas wearing a lavaliere microphone.

    (14a) She aint had no kind onobody to bring her up.(14b) Just to say you been around and been some place, cause you aint never been no place.(14c) Ididn bring none of my clothes back. . . I left em all down there. Thats right. I left all of em down there.

    The discussion focuses on the cognitive contradiction which is involved in the use of quantifiers such as nobody, never,none, and all as follows: It is possible in (14a) that a child had no one to care for him or her in growing up, though itisnt likely. But it is not possible that the children being addressed in (14b) had never been any place, nor is it possible,looking at Dolly Ripley in New York City, to say that she had left all of her clothes in North Carolina (Labov, 1984:4849).

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    A final characteristic of the no-answer question is the fact that the question that finally engendersthe no-answer is deployed in the turn as a component unit following a prior open question, thushearable as the implausible candidate answer for the prior open question. These features areevident in fragment 26:

    Again, the teachers turn is constructed as a multi-unit turn composed of two distinct inter-rogatives. This produces the rhetorical effect described above, whereby it is suggested that thequestioner is skeptical and does not align to the propositional content of the questioning; andprecisely to the last interrogative component (the temperature is always the same) as beingpositively answerable. Again, the questioning turn is designed as connected to prior talk, as isindicated by the demonstrative pronoun (this) that is located in first position and ties the questionto a premise. Indeed, this initial item projects a declarative sentence, rather than an interrogative:in this way the teacher seems to be drawing some conclusions from prior talk, rather than initi-ating a new question-answer sequence. Finally, the teacher uses a quantifier (always, line 2) tointensify the propositional content of the question which, as we have seen above, adds to the senseof skepticism and plays a crucial role in conveying the teachers attitude towards the utterance ascontrary to its propositional content.

    To conclude this section, it is worth considering a further related case: an apparent irregularity(another deviant case) which actually supports our interpretation. In the fragment below the

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    teacher addresses the class with a yes-answer question which appears to be more problematic interms of the projected correct answer:

    The conventions of the question construction adhere to the format we have describe as engen-dering a choral yes. As in the fragments of the first sub-set, the teacher begins the turn after aconsiderable pause: an indication that a new question-answer sequence is thus beginning. In addi-tion, the question key-item is produced with a distinctive high pitch in the first syllable, whichforegrounds the questionable in the turn and thus, again, projecting the beginning of a newquestion-answer sequence, somehow disjuncted from prior talk. Furthermore, the questioningturn is constructed as a standing-alone single-unit interrogative. However, this time, the studentsdo not all agree in providing the expected yes.

    But the fact that this format is precisely built to elicit a positive answer as its obvious uptakeis made clear by the teachers non-verbal behavior; she starts to nod visibly (line 4) as soon asit becomes evident that the majority of the students have problems in producing the expectedanswer. Thus, although this extract apparently contradicts what has been observed in the otherfragments of the yes-answer set in so far as it does not elicit so successfully a choral answer, itnevertheless provides strong evidence of the association which we have established between someprecise features that teachers employ in the construction of yes-no questions and their projectedanswers.

    To conclude, we have observed that in the case of yes-no questions the presence or absence ofsome features produces contrasting patterns in the design of the questioning turn, which instructthe students to identify the correct answer among a set of alternative choices:

    (i) the single-unit versus the multi-unit composition of the questioning turn;(ii) its being designed as connected or detached from prior talk;

    (iii) the presence or absence of quantiers, which indicate the teachers stance towards thequestion.

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    7. Open questions and their different outcomes

    The sense of obviousness which is conveyed through the prosodic and syntactic features in theconstruction of questions is an important aspect of open interrogatives as well. With regards tothis last group of questions (the largest in my corpus), this aspect is particularly crucial becauseboth types choral answers and bids are produced after open questions, although the lattertypes are more frequent. This might stem from the fact that open interrogatives, unlike the otherformats analyzed so far, expect a reply from an open range of replies (Quirk, Greenbaum,Leech, & Svartvik, 1985: 806). This poses different constraints on the answer and, furthermore,on the options that teachers have at their disposal to instruct the students on the expected answer.Nonetheless, many features of the design of these interrogatives and of their sequential deploy-ment, especially of open-questions associated with a choral outcome, are significant as furtherexamples of questions that go for the obvious in the classroom.

    Fragment 28 is an example of the most frequent open-question pattern, which invites studentsto ask permission before answering.

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    The design of the question clearly characterizes the turn as accomplishing a very differentaction than that of dealing with a matter-of-fact issue such as eliciting obviously known piecesof information. For starters, the questioning turn in line 1 is composed of a standing-alone inter-rogative, which is hearable as initiating a new question-answer sequence and which is detachedfrom prior talk. This is grounded on a number of features.

    First, the wh-word is deployed at the beginning of the interrogative. This characterizes line 1 asprojecting a genuine query from the turns very beginning; that is as a non-fortuitous question, butas one precisely designed as such.12 Second, other features in the design of the turn convey a senseof special expectation about the nature of the answer, which is cast as not being highly predictable.These include the repetition of the interrogative element why three times13 and the fact that theteacher turns her head so as to monitor the audience in perfect synchronisation with the verbalproduction (see gloss to line 1). We can see that students understand the teachers attitude towardsthe special status of this question type and orient to the fact that the teacher appears to assumea probable lack of knowledge of the answer by the way they organize the answering sequence:instead of a collective answer, bids for answering and the raising of hands follow the teachersquestion.

    A similar pattern can be identified in the following excerpt. In this segment, q-arrows indicatethe teachers questions, the s-arrow the selection, and the a-arrow highlights the answer.

    12 This is in contrast to the practice of deploying questioning devices within declarative-formatted turn so as to convey asense of incidental and fortuitous question, and of obviousness, as will be shown for wh-questions which engender choralanswers (fragments 3032).13 It can be observed that in line 2 one student is audibly speaking. Hence, we can suppose that the recycling of the turn

    beginning is produced so as to get into the clear and overcome the overlapping talk. However, the teacher is in the clearafter the first perche. The competition with the students overlapping talk is not otherwise marked. This suggests thatthe other two repeated instances of the wh-word are produced for other reasons than competitive talk: that is, in order tomark the interrogative as embodying a special query from its very beginning.

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    A number of features indicate that the deployment of the questions is designed to be heardas not casual. The wh-question in line 2 is, in fact, introduced by a rather extended pause whichseparates the wh-interrogative from the two preceding clauses and it frames the question. Inaddition to that, these clauses are delivered with a suspended intonation (and each time I changedirection/I do a rotation) that conveys the sense that the turn is still in progress. Both thesefeatures create expectation for the question which follows, as do the multiple increments to thefirst questioning turn on lines 4, 6, and 9, which are produced without any acknowledgement ofthe bids that students have produced in the meantime. The first increment (line 4) might be relatedto the students delay in displaying any signs of knowledge of the answer, as the long pause in line3 shows, but the other two instances (lines 6 and 9) are produced despite the students requests toanswer.

    This way of delivering the question conveys that the teacher views the answer as not imme-diately transparent to students. By delaying the selection of the respondent and, furthermore, bytaking no account of the students requests for permission to answer, the teacher seems to drawthe recipients attention towards the substance of the question. It is interesting to note that, in theend, a choral answer is produced, but only because the teacher has overtly elicited the students todo so (lines 1921).14

    Conversely, choral answers which are engendered by open questionsthat is, without goingthrough the teachers selection, are comparatively rather less frequent. But they are normallyassociated with other distinct features in the construction and deployment of the questioningturn. So, it is interesting to see how teachers combine the wh-format with other features of turnconstruction to propose that there should be no doubt that the students will know how to answercorrectly and properly. This sense can be conveyed by the fortuitous deployment of the questionwithin a multi-unit turn with a declarative format. The fragment below illustrates one such pattern.

    The question in 30 (line 2) is clearly occasioned by the fact that pupils are audibly speakingin overlap with the teachers talk (line 3).

    14 With regards to the possible reasons why the teacher demands a choral response at this point, one might observe thatnumerous students have presented themselves as potential answerers. Thus, by now an in-unison answer is projectable asa concrete possibility, whereas before it was not the case.

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    The wh-question is deployed in the course of the teachers explanation of the reasons why thetemperature is very low early in the morning. In line 2, a few bits after the disturbance has begun,the teacher distinctly raises the volume of her voice and sustains the vowel sounds to overcomethe disturbance and get into the clear. This is then followed by the open question da che parte sileva il sole?/in which direction does the sun rise?.

    Owing to the particular contingencies of the interactional moment, the question is deployedin a multi-unit turn, whose trajectory is not projectable as interrogative from the beginning. Thisis obviously related to the teachers need to compete with the pupils making the disturbance.However, the placement of the question within a declarative-formatted utterance indicates that itis casually deployed, that it does not deserve a special treatment, and that it regards a matter thatis assumed as known to students.

    Following the question, in lines 5 to 8, a number of pupils answer with individual answers.The fact that the teacher views this behavior as insufficient is demonstrated by her repetition ofthe same question (line 9 below) which, this time, elicits broader participation in the answer, ascan be seen in the choral production (lines 10, 11, and 12):

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    This time the students seem to recognize that the question deals with known information.Consequently, they organize themselves in groups, each one producing slightly delayed choralanswers, as is the recurrent pattern for in-unison answers. By producing a verbatim repetitionof the previous question which some students have already answered along with the call toanswer (sveglia/wake up), the teacher proposes that those who didnt respond did not hearthe question. Thus, according to the teacher, the failure to answer by some in the audience is notto be accounted for the fact that they did not know the answer. The suggestion that everybody whocan physically hear the question will be able to answer it adds to the sense of obviousness. Thus, itseems that the casual deployment of non-addressed open questions is interpreted by participantsas being associated with a sense of the obvious.

    Fragment 32 below contains another example of the insertion of a last minute wh-question intoa turn with a non-interrogative trajectory, which is thus heard as being associated with an obviousanswer. The teacher is engaged in repeating the main information in a problem of division whichhas just been read.

    The prosodic features of the turn indicate that this is a rote activity. Note the rhythmic stretchingof the vowel sound in each syllable and the suspended intonation in line 1, which resemblesnursery rhyme enunciation. This repetition is also produced with a higher volume of voice thanthe surrounding talk. For instance, the prefatory token allora is not so high, nor is the questionwhich interrupts the repetition of the main information of the problem produced with a highvolume. In the course of this rote repetition, the teacher deploys, in line 1, an instance of ECDthat fails to elicit completion, or at least does not elicit it as promptly as the teacher expects.Having provided the turn continuation, the teacher then deploys the wh-question as an insertionin the ongoing activity (line 3). That the question is heard by the students as clearly elicitingan obviously known piece of information is evidenced by the fact that, although the question isspecifically addressed to a single student, after a considerable pause (line 4) which highlights theselected students failure to answer, the other students come in, supplying in-unison answers.

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    8. Conclusions

    The investigation has focused on un-addressed question-answer sequences in classroomteacher-led instructional sequences, offering a comparison between the design of questions thatelicit choral answers and questions that are followed by bids to answer. I have chosen un-addressedquestions as the focus of this paper because they are a favourable place for investigating howteacher and students mutually organize their activity, insofar as addressed questions can be seenas, at least partially, pre-allocated. Thus, the management of turn-transfer with reference to un-addressed questions offers some insights into the organization of those activities which are at theintersection of the work of constructing knowledge and that of maintaining order in the classroom.

    This account does not claim to address all the methods and the practices that teacher andstudents use in managing the organization of question-answer sequences in the classroom setting.For instance, there might well be other question designs which operate in instructional sequencesand which constrain the students recognition of the requirements of the questions. It is importantto remember that the two patterns I have described are not always or exclusively associated tothe type of questioning turn reported here. For example, with reference to bids, on some occa-sions students may ask permission to answer even after the teacher has explicitly addressed thequestion to a specific student, and some students might give the answer right away while oth-ers ask permission to do so. However, the distribution of these two different answering formats choral production and bids to answer, as associated with the four types of questioning turnsdescribed here appear to reliably convey to the students the teachers stance towards the answer-ability of the question, in terms of its transparence and obviousness in indicating the expectedanswer.

    By showing the interactional ties that link questions to their answers, I have attempted todemonstrate that the mechanisms which make a question answerable in the classroom do not workon merely a cognitive basis. Knowing or not knowing the answer is not exclusively a state of mindwhich is pre-determined and which enables the students to answer (Mercer, 1995). Knowledgeof the correct answer is not a cognitive state external to the interaction and independent fromthe way in which the interaction is organized by participants. The association between featuresin the construction of questioning turns and the formats of the students answers reveal locallymanaged resources used by teachers to instruct the students on the expected, and thus correctanswer. These resources lie in the social organization of interaction.

    The methods teachers use to convey their assumptions about the answerability of questionshave important consequences for the management of the classroom social order. We must notforget that the classroom is a multi-party setting in which, as in other multi-party institutionalsettings, the features of talk are designed to control or curtail the nature of audience participationin any ongoing exchange (Drew & Heritage, 1992: 27). By designing the questioning accordingto precise conventions, teachers maintain the minimal conditions for the students to be able tofollow the progression of talk and to provide their contribution when requested.15 It is arguedthat, by giving their questions different formats in relation to their answerability, teachers alsoconvey the type of delivery which is requested for the answer (choral or individual). In this way,knowledge matters are connected to the social organization of interaction, insofar as classroomorder is maintained in terms of indicating who should answer, when and in what manner, based

    15 Atkinson and Drew (1979: 220228) propose a number of similarities between courtrooms and classrooms with regardto the ways in which talk is organized with reference to their multi-party nature.

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    on the students access to the correct answer. On the other hand, understanding the way inwhich questions are designed is important for the students, who need to be able to recognize theopportunities for them to take part in the interaction.

    Finally, I have shown that the categorization of teachers questions exclusively on the gram-matical format of the interrogative utterances does not do justice to the elements that combine toshape instructing and being instructed in a multi-party setting. First, neither the presence nor theabsence of specific address terms predicts that a question will be answered by a selected student.Secondly, questioning can also be achieved through resources other than syntax. When interrog-ative formats are used, a number of other properties of talk play a crucial role in the constructionof questioning. The variations from the basic format of syntactical patterns such as dislocationin the order of the components as in alternative questions and other variations in the placementof the turn constructional units as well as the production of prosodic features and the sequentialdeployment of questioning in the broader course of action are determining factors in the creationof a setting in which it is possible for the students to understand the requirements of the actionthat is thus accomplished, as these features serve to instruct them on the content of the answerand on the manner in which they should answer.

    Appendix A. Transcription symbols and translation

    All the examples in this study are from actual interaction recorded in the classroom whileteacher and students were carrying out their pedagogic activities. A collection of video-recordedepisodes was transcribed and analyzed using transcription notations based on the system developedby Gail Jefferson. In transcribing I tried to capture what people actually said, how they did it andwhen. For this purpose pauses, intonation and other features of speech delivery were considered.A fuller account of these conventions are available in Max Atkinson and John Heritage (eds.)Structures of Social Action: Studies in Conversation Analysis, Cambridge, Cambridge UniversityPress 1984: ixxvi. The most important symbols used here are shown below.

    A.1. The relative timing of utterances

    Intervals either within or between turns, or periods of silence (pauses), are shown thus (0.7)(to the nearest tenth of a second).

    A discernible pause which is too short to be timed mechanically is shown as a micro-pause,thus, (.).

    Overlaps between utterances are indicated by square brackets, the point of overlap onset beingmarked with a single left-hand bracket.

    Contiguous utterances, where there is no discernible interval between turns, are linked by anequals sign (=). This is also used to indicate a very rapid move from one unit in a turn to the next.

    When part of an utterance is delivered at a pace quicker or slower than the surrounding talk itis enclosed between less than (>

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    A period (full stop) indicates a falling intonation.A comma indicates a continuing intonation.An inverted question mark indicates a slightly rising inflection.A question mark indicates a rising inflection (not necessarily a question).The stretching of a sound is indicated by colons, the number of which correspond to the lengthof the stretching.The halting in the flow of talk or the abrupt cutoff is indicated by a single dash..h indicates inhalation, the length of which is indicated by the number of hs.h. indicates outbreath, the length of which is indicated by the number of hs.(hh) Audible aspirations are indicated in the speech in which they occur (including in laughter).Degree signs indicate word(s) spoken very softly or quietly.Sound stress is shown by underlining, those words or parts of a word which are emphasizedbeing underlined.Capital letters are used to indicate a word, or part of a word, that is spoken much louder thansurrounding talk.Marked pitch raises are indicated by upward arrows, thus ; whilst marked falls in pitch areshown by downward arrows, as .If what is said is unclear or uncertain, that is placed in parentheses. So either the transcribercan hear that something is said, but cannot make out any particular sounds or words ( ); or thetranscriber shows his/her best hearing of what is said, (So I said)

    Each line of transcription has been translated twice. The second line consists of a literaltranslation and often includes grammatical descriptions of items which are not directly translatablein English. These descriptions are provided in capital letters between brackets. The third lineprovides an attempt of an idiomatic English version.


    Atkinson, J. M., & Drew, P. (1979). Order in court. The organization of verbal interaction in judicial settings. London:Macmillan.

    Atkinson, J. M., & Heritage, J. (Eds.). (1984). Structures of social actions: Studies in conversation analysis. Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press.

    Cazden, C. B. (1986). Classroom discourse. In M. C. Wittrock (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (pp. 432463).New York: Macmillan Publishing Company.

    Clayman, S., & Heritage, J. (2002). The news interview, journalists and public gures on the air. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press.

    Drew, P. (1981). Adults corrections of childrens mistakes: A response to Wells and Montgomery. In P. French & M.Maclure (Eds.), Adult-child conversation (pp. 244267). London: Croom Helm.

    Drew, P. (1992). Contested evidence in courtroom cross-examination: The case of a trial for a rape. In P. Drew & J.Heritage (Eds.), Talk at work: Interaction in institutional setting (pp. 470520). Cambridge: Cambridge UniversityPress.

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    "Are you human beings?" Order and knowledge construction through questioning in primary classroom interactionIntroductionAddressed and non-addressed questions and their outcomes

    Data and methodThe distribution of question types and answering uptakesThe Eliciting Completion Device: making projectable the missing itemThe alternative interrogative type: choosing the right optionYes-no questions and their preferred answersOpen questions and their different outcomesConclusionsTranscription symbols and translationThe relative timing of utterancesCharacteristics of speech delivery



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